From John Nelson
KABUL: The US special envoy leading negotiations with the Taliban met with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani in Kabul on Wednesday, an official said, amid a renewed push to reach an accord with the insurgents.
US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad and Ghani discussed several topics including the need for a ceasefire, Ghani s spokesman Sediq Seddiqi said.
“The president also expressed his concerns about the continued violence by the Taliban,” Sediqqi said.
“The president reiterated that the government and people of Afghanistan want a sustainable peace.”
Khalilzad has spent more than a year leading a push for a deal with the Taliban that would see the US reduce its military footprint in Afghanistan in return for security guarantees from the insurgents.
While the US has kept Ghani apprised of developments, the Afghan president has been cut out of negotiations because the Taliban refuse to recognise his authority.
A US-Taliban deal had been all but signed in early September, but President Donald Trump scuttled the agreement at the last minute, citing concerns about ongoing Taliban violence including a Kabul bombing that killed an American soldier.
Talks resumed December 7 amid a reduction in violence in Kabul but were paused following another Taliban attack, this time at Bagram air base north of Kabul.
The US embassy in Kabul declined to comment immediately, but talks appear to have resumed again this week in Doha.
Iran’s top security official said Wednesday the Islamic Republic opposed US negotiations with Afghanistan’s Taliban, as the talks excluded the Afghan people and government.
“Any strategy, any decision or plan without the participation of the Afghan people is wrong and doomed to failure,” said Rear Admiral Ali Shamkhani, secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council.
“The Taliban are a reality of the Afghan people that cannot be ignored. But are all Afghans Taliban? No,” he added.
Shamkhani was speaking at a news conference following a meeting in Tehran of senior national security officials from Afghanistan, China, India, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Russia.
He accused the US of trying to use the situation in Afghanistan to “create insecurity on the borders of China, Russia and Iran” and said the “dialogue on regional security” was proof of Washington’s failure to isolate the Islamic Republic.
Shamkhani noted that Tehran did not participate in the US-led negotiations due to having once cooperated with Washington on Afghanistan and having been “put in the Axis of Evil”.
The term was first used by US President George W. Bush in 2002, when he branded three countries — North Korea, Iran and Iraq — as states that sponsored terrorism.
A US-Taliban deal had been all but signed in early September, but President Donald Trump scuttled the agreement at the last minute, citing ongoing Taliban violence, including a Kabul bombing that killed an American soldier.
Talks resumed December 7 amid a reduction in violence in Kabul, but were paused after another Taliban attack, this time at Bagram air base north of the Afghan capital.
According to a draft of the September agreement, the Taliban were to commit to security measures, launch a dialogue with the Afghan government and reduce violence in exchange for the withdrawal of American forces.
From John Nelson